Republicans try to pin the ‘big lie’ on Stacey Abrams
To get this message across, they argue that Abrams’ latest campaign speech, a critique of Georgia’s electoral system in 2018, is no different than former President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the 2020 election results. in the state.
“Democrats attack Trump and Republicans for believing in these plots, believing what they call the ‘big lie.’ But the original Big Lie promoter was Stacey Abrams, ”said Brian Robinson, a Georgia-based Republican strategist. “She was ahead of her time because she’s into so many things.”
The quality of their message is likely to shape a major theme in Georgia’s 2022 gubernatorial elections, when electoral integrity and voting rights will remain major issues.
And it will be a powerful political test for Abrams, an influential figure in the Democratic Party who made history as the first black woman candidate for a major party to run for governor – and who is looking forward to a revenge against Republican Brian Kemp.
So far, Abrams hasn’t backed down from the nuanced stance she took at the end of a controversial campaign against Kemp, then Secretary of State.
Abrams didn’t recognize him as the winner until more than a week after polling day, as his campaign claimed it would wait until all the votes were counted before weighing in. Although she lost by some 55,000 votes, Kemp finished with 50.2% of the vote. the vote – less than 10,000 votes above the majority threshold that could have forced a second election.
In her final speech 10 days later and in speaking engagements over the following months, Abrams maintained that she was not conceding the race.
“Concession means recognizing that an action is right, true or appropriate. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot admit, “Abrams told supporters in 2018.” But my assessment is that the law currently does not allow any other viable remedy. ”
She blamed the system that got Kemp elected – alleging that voter suppression tactics paved the way for his victory – and also implicated Kemp, as he was then officially in charge of the state’s elections.
In an interview with CNN earlier this month, she reaffirmed her view that the election was “rigged” – echoing language often used by Trump.
Abrams said Kemp “won by the rules of the game at the time, but the game was rigged against voters in Georgia.”
“On November 16, 2018, I acknowledged at the top of my speech that Brian Kemp is the Governor of Georgia and even wished him luck at the end of the speech,” Abrams said. “And in the middle, I talked about the fact that we had a system that he managed, that he manipulated, hurt the Georgian voters and that the responsibility of the leaders was to challenge the systems that do not serve the people.”
According to a complaint filed by Fair Fight Action, a group founded by Abrams after the 2018 election, the election was marred by many problems. The lawsuit – due to stand trial in February – among other things cites Georgia’s exact matches law, saying it was disproportionately targeting minority voters for the first time. In addition, he alleges that election officials were not properly trained to cancel postal ballots, preventing access to the ballot for dozens of voters who chose to vote in person.
While Abrams’ claims are not as divisive as Trump’s, they have given the GOP an opportunity to use her words to undermine her reputation as a champion of free and fair elections.
David Perdue, the former senator who now runs against Kemp in the GOP primary, said his decision to do so was largely driven by Abrams’ entry into the race and his belief that Kemp would not be a candidate strong enough to defeat her.
In his election launch video, Perdue presented Abrams as a threat to the state election, claiming that “over my corpse, will we ever give Stacey Abrams control” of them. Around the same time, the Republican Governors Association issued a press release highlighting Abrams’ 2018 speech, saying she was a candidate who “cannot be trusted”.
And in March, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger wrote that Abrams’ refusal to concede the 2018 election undermined voter confidence in the system. At public rallies, he alleged that she and the former president were spreading disinformation about their races through allegations of Trump’s election fraud and the removal of Abrams voters.
Yet while Trump and Abrams have refused to concede their elections, the similarities between the two end there.
Trump not only refused to concede the presidential election, but also made false statements about his results, alleging that missing or fraudulent votes contributed to his downfall.
The statements were unfounded: Neither the Georgia Bureau of Investigation nor the FBI found evidence of fraud in the 2020 election. Multiple recounts revealed Joe Biden was the winner in the state election . And since then, state courts have dismissed multiple lawsuits filed by the former president, his allies and supporters seeking to overturn the election results.
Seth Bringman, spokesperson for Abrams, emphasized his stance on the race.
“After election day in 2018, Abrams’ campaign went to federal court, several judges accepted our demands and more Georgian votes were counted,” Bringman said. “She acknowledged the election result but refused to accept that it was fair to the voters – and she worked to change Georgia’s voting system for the upcoming election.”
However, that trial was curtailed by a judge in April, shortly after Kemp signed a law that imposed new state restrictions on postal voting and gave the GOP-controlled legislature more control over the elections. .
As the fight for Georgia’s electoral system rages on, Republicans revel in being able to use Abrams’ own words against it.
“We’ve seen so many TV commercials, so many digital ads, where contestants stretch the truth. And I think the electorate realizes it. They know that whatever they see or hear now is not checked or valid, “said Ryan Mahoney, senior adviser for Brian Kemp’s 2018 election.” And so when it’s Stacey Abrams in her own words, it’s a lot more believable, it goes a lot further and it’s a lot harder for Abrams and his side to argue. And luckily, for Georgia Republicans, Stacey Abrams has spent a lot of time on TV since her loss. [the 2018] race.”
Democrats were quick to denounce GOP tactics, saying that while election integrity may be a priority for Democratic and Republican voters, pushing the belief that Abrams is on par with Trump will not lead to the GOP away in the mail wars.
“I think it will land, probably, with [Republican] voters. But obviously that won’t work with the Democratic base, ”said Nabilah Islam, a Georgia-based Democratic strategist and former congressional candidate. “For them to try to equate it with what Trump said is absolutely blatant.”
And in his first interview after declaring his candidacy earlier this month, Abrams clarified his position on the 2018 election.
“On November 16, when I recognized that I would not become governor, that [Kemp] won the election, I did not dispute the election results, unlike some recent people, ”Abrams told Rachel Maddow the night she launched her campaign. “What I said was that the system was not fair. And leaders challenge systems; leaders say, “We can do better. And that’s what I said.